Coping with Pet Loss: Rituals Can Help

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Losing a beloved cat is devastating, no matter what the circumstances. Grief is a very individual experience, and no two cat guardians will grieve in exactly the same way. Rituals can play an important role in the healing process. There is something about acknowledging grief through a tangible action that can help soothe raw emotions.

Rituals can take many different forms. The best ritual is the one that has the most meaning for you. Find something that resonates with you, and add your own personal expression to it.

Share the loss with friend and family

Sharing your loss with others who are supportive can help heal a wounded heart. Invite people who have either known your cat, or who truly understand how important she was in your life, and spend time sharing stories about the her and your life together. You could even structure this gathering as a memorial service for your beloved cat.

Plant something

Plant a tree, a rosebush, or a flowering plant in your cat’s memory. Doing something life giving is a wonderful way to remember a cat, and you can visit with your memorial plant whenever you feel you need to be close to your cat.

Photo tributes

One of the things I’ve always done after losing one of my cats is surround myself with photos. I would place them all over my house. In some small way, it made me feel like the lost cat was still with me in a somewhat tangible way. Other ways to use photos to remember  lost cat is by creating a collage suitable for framing, or an online photo album. Going through years of photos may bring tears, but hopefully, it will also bring smiles as you remember your time together.

A painted portrait

After Feebee passed away, a friend surprised me with a painted portrait. To this day, it’s one of my most treasured possessions. There’s something about a painting that speaks to a different part of your soul than photographs.

Art and craft projects

Create an art and craft project in your pet’s memory. When Virginia, my first office cat at the animal hospital died, the entire hospital staff spent an evening creating mosaic memory stones. We made one for Virginia, and three more for other hospital cats who had gone before her. We placed the stones in the hospital’s front garden. Working on the stones together as we shared memories of the cats was a wonderful healing experience for everyone.

Make a donation to your favorite shelter or rescue group in your cat’s memory

Sponsor a shelter cat in your cat’s memory. Donate to the group you adopated your cat from. Some shelters will even provide a memorial stone or plaque with your cat’s name.

Create a special memorial space in your home

Find a special urn for your cat’s ashes. I have all my departed cats’ ashes on the dresser in my bedroom. There something very comforting to me to see them just before I go to bed each night, and when I first wake up each morning. Gather some of your cat’s favorite toys and display them in a pretty basked in a spot that was meaningful to your cat.

Keep a journal

Write down all your favorite memories of your cat. Time has a way of blurring memories. Writing things down while they’re still fresh in your mind preserves these special moments. Feebee died fourteen years ago, and whenever I go back to read what I wrote shortly after he passed away, it brings back memories of things he used to do that I had long forgotten.

What rituals have brought you comfort after losing a cat?

12 Comments on Coping with Pet Loss: Rituals Can Help

  1. Susan
    June 8, 2015 at 2:24 pm (2 years ago)

    “Going through years of photos may bring tears, but hopefully, it will also bring smiles as you remember your time together. ” – I am doing this today, 8 weeks after losing Zesty. I am adding pictures from the last 7 or 8 years to it. It definitely helps to remember that there really are years worth of memories when it seems like the time with our precious cats went by so quickly.

    All of these are great ideas and I have found they help.

    Reply
  2. Susan
    April 17, 2015 at 12:34 am (2 years ago)

    I have a few pages dedicated to Misty. I lost her in 2001 on my website (fromtheheartpostcards.com) under the everything cats section as well as a site dedicated to topaz and zesty (tale of 2 cats) also linked from there. I had not lost another cat until Zesty died two days ago. She and Topaz were adopted together after losing Misty.

    I tend to write poems (not very good I am afraid) that are cat related in general or about my cats (Heaven Knows) all linked from there and I plan to do a book of photos of Zesty as well as a few things on my pinterest and I hope to have a portrait done too.

    I love reading the different responses.

    Reply
    • Susan
      April 17, 2015 at 12:41 am (2 years ago)

      oh, and I forgot to say, I always make sure to write down all the little things (nicknames, fav toys or games, etc) that make each cat unique, because you are right, over time we do tend to forget the little things, and sometimes they are the most important when you are trying to remember your cat. Start when they join the family and add to the list as the years pass.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        April 17, 2015 at 6:04 am (2 years ago)

        I’ve always found any kind of writing very healing, too, Susan.

        Reply
  3. Margaret
    November 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm (2 years ago)

    Rituals are important I think. I found with one cat many years ago that it helped enormously to put her photograph on stationery. As for getting another “to replace”, for me, this has to be further down the track, I can’t ever just go out and get one the next day. I found all the comments very interesting – shows how we all have our own ways of coping, and guess this is true with human life as well.

    Reply
  4. Barry Farris
    November 22, 2014 at 9:12 pm (2 years ago)

    I know that many folks who have lost their cat and after a few weeks can benefit from a trip to a cat rescue. The best one that I have visited is on the west coast and called Cat House on the Kings where there are least 700 uncaged cats roaming around being peaceful and happy cats. I used to think that going out to get a replacement cat was complicated because I had to choose but at the Cat House things are reversed. During the visiting hours, you can sit on a bench and wait for dozens of totally healthy cats to choose you! When a cat walks up to your leg, gives it a rub and then jumps into your lap and starts to purr, you have been chosen!! This 12 acre no-kill rescue has saved over 20,000 cats! If someone is ready to have another cat crawl into their heart, being selected is a great way to learn to love again. Look for the videos on YouTube to learn even more.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 23, 2014 at 7:36 am (2 years ago)

      Cat House on the Kings is a wonderful organization. I remember watching a special on National Geographic about them a couple of years ago – what an amazing place.

      Reply
  5. Brenda
    November 17, 2014 at 9:27 pm (2 years ago)

    I love your suggestion of rituals. We both wrote a lot about our first indoor cat when his time came. My husband wrote a memorial page & we used one of his pictures in it but we have not shared it with anyone else. We also toast him both on his date of rescue & his date of death and keep his photographs out on our mantel & our coffee table.

    Our book DEAR LUCKY: LETTERS TO OUR CAT was (and is) in a sense a memorial to Lucky though it only covers his growing-up years. (My husband wrote the cute true stories — Lucky was an interesting little character and I took the photographs which are in the book.) One picture that isn’t in the book is on my profile page on @brendaoncats — the way he looked shortly after his rescue.

    I wish everyone would write of their cats’ lives so they can remember (as you mention) and also so that future generations (whether relatives, readers or researchers in archives) could know more about individual cat lives.

    Right now a cousin & I are trying to figure out more about our great-great-grandfather’s dog. We don’t even know his name or breed at this point, only have the picture of his joyfully greeting the photographer. And I’d love to know the names of my great-great-aunt and uncle’s cats that they loved enough to be photographed with. I only know that it is their relatives who still live in a family barn on the same property but knowing more would be wonderful.

    Reply
  6. Monica Ackerman
    November 17, 2014 at 3:03 pm (2 years ago)

    Wow, this struck a chord in my heart. I lost my Maxximus 4 years ago and still think of him and talk about him almost every day. He was my first ever cat and he changed my life. My other two cats understand that Charlie looks a lot like Maxxi and I sometimes call him that. At first, they went looking for him when I said his name but now they know. I have his ashes in a beautiful oak-wood urn provided by the pet crematorium, with a name plaque and surrounded by pictures of his sweet face, on a special book shelf. I wrote stories about him from the day he came into my life and have a collection of about 20 stories, all but one of which were published in a lovely e-zine called catnip chronicles which, unfortunately is no longer in existence. I’m still writing stories but now they are about Chelsea and Charlie and they will be collected as well. By the way, I checked with the Neptune Society where I have arranged for my cremation and they assured me there would be no extra charge to have pet’s ashes scattered at the same time. This is now in my will and last wishes. My daughter agreed but she said, with a smile: “Mom, cats don’t like water!”

    Reply
  7. Sue Brandes
    November 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm (2 years ago)

    I’ve painted a garden stone. I have an area in my home where I have my kitties ashes, photos, and something they liked to play with. I did a photo album of them also. It’s very comforting to me. I still have a bed of BearBear’s as I just cannot throw it out. He was my sould kitty.

    Reply
  8. Fur Everywhere
    November 17, 2014 at 4:59 am (2 years ago)

    These are all good ideas.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to have a friend who will listen to me talk about Jewel whenever I want. It is often very painful, but I know it is necessary to grieve, too.

    I’ve also started a feature on my blog called “Jewel’s Journeys” which shares a memory of Jewel every Thursday. It took me a couple of months before I could even write any memories of her down in the blog. To this day, I have not spoken of her last week to hardly anyone; it is still way too painful (she passed about 2.5 months ago).

    Reply
  9. Rudolph Andrew Furtado
    November 17, 2014 at 1:14 am (2 years ago)

    My first cat, a adopted albino/siamese mix named “Trixie” expired in 2007 after being in my household for 12 years.Today i have memories of her through my “Blog” and her diary on “Catster” besides a photograph of her adorning a small shelf in my house.Have owned pets since childhood previously being a dog owner. My pets are preserved in memory through “Blogs” and “Photographs”.My oldest pet, India’s best talking Alexandrine parakeet “Mittoo” which lived upto 22 years is preserved through “taxidermy”.At present have two traditional Persian cats named “Matahari” and “Matata”.

    Reply

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